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Disclosure: RailEurope paid for rail tickets from Nice to Monaco for my wife and I, as well as the Monaco Tourism board gave us a booklet giving us free entry to a variety of Monaco museums and an all-day bus pass. The Tourism office also let us store our carry-on bags in the back of their office while we explored the country, which I assume is not a service generally available to the public :-). They did not review or approve the contents of this post
As part of our trip to Europe back in September, we explored the country of Monaco. We settled on visiting Monaco for 3 reasons – 1) we saw an episode featuring the country on the TV show The Amazing Race, and 2) as we left London, we looked for all flights leaving London which were less than 650 miles flown (in order to take advantage of British Airways’ distance-based award chart)
The 3rd reason was adding to my visited country count!
(SEE ALSO: September 2015: Time to update the travel map!)
Taking the train from Nice to Monaco
We flew from London into Nice on Sunday afternoon, and checked into our hotel in Nice (the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de Mediteranee). We used one of our Hyatt free nights on the hotel – it was nice, but without any sort of status, we didn’t get a ton of value out of it. If only Hyatt had been offering free Diamond status earlier this year…..
Of course, since we were at a “Nice” hotel (pardon the pun), so breakfast was not included (another reason budget hotels DESTROY nice ones), so we stopped at a boulangerie on our quarter mile walk from the Hyatt to the Nice train station (Nice Gare) to buy some breakfast as well as some sandwiches for lunch. The language barrier there was…. intense, not to mention the fact that they didn’t seem to understand the concept that Carolyn (a vegetarian) wanted a sandwich with just lettuce, cheese and tomato 🙂
Arriving at Nice Gare, we were initially confused as to where to enter the station, but without too much delay, we were able to quickly find our way down to the platform and on the first eastbound train for the 15-20 minute ride into Monaco. This was our first time really trying to navigate in a country where neither of us spoke the language, and we originally didn’t realize that there wasn’t a specific “Monaco” train, but instead nearly all of the trains heading east into Switzerland, Italy, etc. stopped at Monaco (again, it’s not very far from Nice)
Monaco – getting around
Monaco is not very big at all – it’s the 2nd smallest country in the world (behind Vatican City). The entire country is only 0.75 square miles. By comparison, New York City is about 300 square miles, meaning the entire COUNTRY of Monaco would fit inside New York City around 400 times!
It is very hilly though, so the bus system is nice. There are 5 different bus lines that go to different parts of the city (map and timetable from the official transportation website)
A ticket costs 2 Euros, and a daily pass is 6.25 Euros (as I mentioned, we got ours for free from the Tourism board). Kids under 7 are free. We probably could have walked more, but since we had the passes, we used them several times to get to the various sites
Where to stay in Monaco
Looking at Award Mapper (one of my top 10 miles and points tools), there are only
3 chain hotels actually in Monaco itself – 2 Marriott’s and a Category 6 SPG (err… I guess those are all Marriotts now :-P)
However, you can see that one of the Marriott is technically across the border, and thanks to one of the commenters, I learned that the Constantine Marriott is actually in Morocco (it’s an Award Mapper bug). There is also a Fairmont and a Novotel (by Accor). In Monaco itself, I would imagine there are a ton of local hotels as well as airbnb or other options. Or, as I mentioned, we stayed in Nice, which is not very far away by train, and there are all sorts of hotels there.
What to do in Monaco
For a small country, there is quite a lot to do. We arrived around 10 a.m. and had to leave by about 3 p.m., so we didn’t have a lot to do. We stopped by the Monte Carlo casino
though since we’re not big gamblers we didn’t go inside. We also visited the Crowne Prince’s quarters, which was I will say mildly interesting (reading up on the House of Grimaldi learned me a few things I did not know)
For us though, the big hit of the day was the Musée Océanographique de Monaco (Oceanographic Museum of Monaco). Created by Prince Albert I, a noted scientist, in 1906, the Oceanographic Museum is right on the Mediterranean coast and required a LONG walk up STEEP stairs to get to (though I’m sure we just didn’t do it right 🙂
While I am FAR from an animal person, there was just so much there that was super interesting, and I think Carolyn (who IS an animal person) enjoyed it even more. Here are a few pictures of some of the exhibits
We had our lunch in the Saint Martin Gardens, a local park. While eating there and relaxing I uttered the phrase which became the title of this post. After lunch, we made our way back to Nice, in a manner which was so awesome that… it deserves its own post! If you’re wanting to learn more about Monaco, you should have come to my son’s geography fair last month – he did his report on Monaco as well 🙂
On our way out of Monaco back to the airport in Nice, we ended up traveling by helicopter, which was truly a once in a lifetime experience!
I had a great time in Monaco and would definitely recommend it.